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For gays, small and powerful victories

Observer editorial board

As a U.S. representative and more recently a U.S. senator, Rob Portman of Ohio opposed the legalization of same-sex marriage. His conservative principles were part of why he was among the Republicans considered to be Mitt Romney’s running mate in the 2012 presidential election.

But in an op-ed Friday in the Columbus Dispatch, he wrote: “I have come to believe that if two people are prepared to make a lifetime commitment to love and care for each other in good times and in bad, the government shouldn’t deny them the opportunity to get married.”

What changed his mind will be unsurprising to many: Portman’s 21-year-old son, Will, is gay. Will, a student at Yale, told his parents in February 2011.

And so Portman the father has seen what Portman the elected official did not – how his defense of “traditional” marriage impacts homosexuals who love just as deeply and feel the pain of discrimination. He becomes the latest among us who learns simply by knowing someone, be it a family member or friend or coworker, who is gay.

It’s why polls in recent years have shown a significant shift in public opinion toward homosexuality. It’s why voters in four states last November said yes to same-sex marriage – the first four states in which voters, not just lawmakers, did so.

Some decry those victories – as they will Portman’s shift – as further evidence of society’s moral unraveling. We think it’s the opposite.

We think Americans are realizing, one by one, how much of our values are shared – no matter whom we love.

On male child sex abuse: Courage, encouragement

In Friday’s paper, yet another face of male childhood sex abuse was revealed: Dr. Jason Peck, a Fort Mill psychiatrist who says he was assaulted by a neighbor when he was 12. He has filed suit against the alleged perpetrator, the former head of an international fraternal and service organization who has denied the charge.

Peck’s decision to step forward years after his alleged abuse, and his decision to leave his practice and get the therapy he needs, is a reminder of how painful such abuse is to acknowledge and deal with. His admission also illustrates the difficult truth about child sex abuse: It is no respecter of socio-economic class, race or education level. Perpetrators and victims fall into all categories. One in five males is sexually abused before age 18.

Peck said he felt compelled to speak out after the Jerry Sandusky scandal unfolded at Penn State in 2011. Who better, he thought, to put a victim’s face on such horror than a doctor married with two children, a nice house and a solid reputation?

Sadly, too many men who were sexually abused as children suffer in silence. They need not. If the charges are true, Peck took a courageous step. We must help and encourage others to do so as well.

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